Absa Premiership

It’s the final countdown


Johannesburg - The final round of the Absa Premiership will reveal not only which team will be relegated to the National First Division, but also who will contest the promotional play-offs. Some top-eight spots are also up for grabs. Furthermore, the second CAF Champions League spot may see a change.

So, there is a lot to play for on Saturday as the Absa Premiership curtain falls.

Second position: Champions League spot

Third-placed Cape Town City could, in theory, snatch the runner-up spot from Mamelodi Sundowns with a win away at Polokwane City if Pitso Mosimane’s men fail to win at Highlands Park.

Eric Tinkler’s winning team have already qualified for the CAF Confederation Cup after guaranteeing a third-place finish, but will push for a Champions League place against Cape Town City.

SuperSport United will need a draw against Platinum Stars to finish fourth ahead of Kaizer Chiefs.

A win for Amakhosi over champions Bidvest Wits could take them to fourth spot if United lose.

Top eight spots

Only the top six clubs are guaranteed their places in next season’s MTN8, and there are two more spots up for grabs. Polokwane City, who are on 40 points, have qualified for their maiden top-eight competition. This is a huge achievement for a side that has always been fighting for survival.

Maritzburg United and Ajax Cape Town can only secure their spots if they win their respective matches on Saturday.

Golden Arrows and Platinum Stars are lurking in the shadows, and any slip-up by the United and Ajax squads would give them a chance to sneak in.

Tenth-placed Stars are three points behind sixth-placed Maritzburg, but, with a better goal difference, the North West side can move into the top-eight bracket – provided the KwaZulu-Natal team fails to beat Bloemfontein Celtic.

Arrows, who are a point behind Ajax Cape Town, will be rooting for Baroka to beat the Cape side as this would give them a chance to overtake – if Arrows win their game against Orlando Pirates.

The Buccaneers look set to miss out on a top-eight finish for the first time in the Premier Soccer League era, even if they beat Arrows. They are three points behind Ajax, but their goal difference is too large to enable them to get through the back door.

For that to happen, they will have to win by more than five goals and hope Ajax lose by a heavy score as well.

Relegation battle

Now this is where it gets complicated. With only three points separating the bottom five clubs, any of them could still be relegated.

What makes these finals even more tense is that the clubs – Bloemfontein Celtic, Chippa United, Free State Stars, Highlands Park and Baroka – play against sides that are also fighting for something, so a lot is at stake.

Celtic play against Maritzburg, who are fighting for a spot in the top eight. The same goes for Ajax, who want to secure their top-eight position when they welcome Baroka, the team at the bottom of the table.

Highlands face Sundowns at home. The Brazilians want to cement their second position, which guarantees them a place in the Champions League next year.

Finally, Chippa United and Free State Stars, who are level on points, will use each other as a ladder to climb up the rankings and, in the process, ensure their safety.

Top scorer

There is also the matter of the top scorer award, with Cape Town City captain Lebogang Manyama leading with 13 goals – a single strike ahead of Pirates’ Tendai Ndoro. This contest looks set to go down to the wire as Ndoro will be hoping to finish the same way he started against Arrows when he scored a hat-trick in the season’s opening game.

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